Tips on keeping a healthy heart

February isn’t only about love, it’s also about heart — it’s Heart Health Month

February isn’t only about love, it’s also about heart — it’s Heart Health Month.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. About one in four deaths are caused by heart disease. While risk factors increase for senior citizens, here are five easy preventative methods:

1. Daily exercise.

Dr. Leah Marcotte of Iora Primary Care in Renton recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise for five days a week. Check your local community centers and local senior centers to see what programs and services they might have.

2. Regular health screening

Apart from getting regular check-ups at your primary care physician, keep an eye on your blood pressure.

“Making sure people’s blood pressure is in a safe range does a lot to prevent heart attacks and strokes,” Marcotte said.

High cholesterol and diabetes also increase risk for heart disease. Monitoring cholesterol levels and getting regular diabetes screenings will reduce the risk.

3. Healthy diet

Healthy eating means healthy living. This means reducing sodium intake, as well as eating foods low in saturated fats and cholesterol and high in fiber. Marcotte recommends cooking your own food.

“If you cook your own food, you know what’s going into the food,” she said. If you’re cooking on a budget, seek out wallet-friendly cook books and recipes online.

4. Family history

Research to see if there is any heart disease in your family as genetics can likely play a role in high blood pressure and heart disease. The chance of getting a stroke about doubles every 10 years after age 55, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, genetics don’t always determine your fate.

“Family history plays a role in heart disease, but just because your father, mother or brother had a stroke, doesn’t mean you will too,” Marcotte said. “Lifestyle plays a huge role.”

She added that it is important your doctor knows about any known family history.

5. Quit smoking

According to the American Heart Association, smokers have a higher risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

“Less is always good, but quitting is always the big thing that leads to the most health benefits,” Marcott said.